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Five Questions: Larry Ryan

January 6, 2021 -  By
Larry Ryan (Photo: Jeremiah Samborski, courtesy of Ryan Lawn & Tree)

Larry Ryan (Photo: Jeremiah Samborski, courtesy of Ryan Lawn & Tree)

Larry Ryan

President, Ryan Lawn & Tree, Lenexa, Kan.

1. What would you like to tell me about Ryan Lawn & Tree?

Turf is the basis of our company. I started there with turf applications. Then we added pruning and tree and shrub spraying, followed by irrigation. We will do about $46 million this year. I’m 71 years old. I refer to myself as “the old guy.” I don’t know how long I’m going to stay on, but we still have some big goals to hit. We are now 100 percent employee owned. Our people are 100 percent bought in. It doesn’t get better than that. I’ll step down when I no longer bring value to the company.

2. What’s your 2020 been like?

We had a lot of positives. People were home; they watched us. We are very careful about our appearance. Hair needs to be well taken care of, and we ask men to shave daily, kind of an all-American look. A lot of men and women don’t care for that, but we hire the ones who can sacrifice. I realize beards are in now — it’s the macho thing — but we’ve kept our no-beards policy. I think it’s paid off. Our industry is called a commodity business, which means I get work over your company by beating your price. We don’t commoditize what we do. We try very hard to value add everything and charge above market, which allows us to pay above market, which allows us to do a higher-quality, value-added application or service call. With us, presentation is everything.

3. What’s your favorite thing about living in Lenexa, Kan.?

I live in Lenexa, and it is a nice town, but I’ve loved all the places I’ve lived and that includes Idaho, Montana and Kansas. Now, I’m a forester, and the place I live now has two acres of trees. Taking down a dead or poor quality tree is my hobby. I turn it into firewood and burn it during the winter. Plus, I get to manage my own little forest. I get to pick out the trees I think look nicest. I love managing the forest. Also, I have about 12,000, 13,000 square feet of turf, and I want the neighbors to see it pristine when they drive by. It’s goofy, but I love doing it! When you are 71, you realize your days are numbered. I’m having fun with the years I have left. I’m an old man, and my hobbies are landscaping, faith, family and work.

4. What are your favorite holiday traditions?

I have nine brothers and sisters. We are all still married to our first spouse. We love to get together. I also love decorating a 9- or 10-foot Christmas tree every year with my son.

5. Do you recall a day in your career that was really memorable for a positive reason?

Customers have given me great advice. An old neighbor-turned-customer rode around with me one day. At the end of the day, he said, “Larry, this has been fun. But when you send out a $5 an hour guy who doesn’t care, it won’t be fun anymore.” That saying led the way for our hiring mostly college grads for our workforce. Those higher-caliber people pushed us to value add our service and charge more. It’s been a positive Catch-22. Hiring special people has made us stand out in our industry.

This article is tagged with , and posted in 1220, Featured, Five Questions, From the Magazine
Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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